Results for Sea Islands Christmas Bird Count

Kiawah Island Biologist Aaron Given coordinates the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) for the Sea Islands. This CBC circle encompasses Kiawah, Seabrook Island, Wadmalaw and much of Johns Island. The Seabrooker article this month included great pictures and information about SIB’s participation in this event. Aaron recently published the results for the entire circle which are copied verbatim below.

Sea Islands Christmas Bird Count 2022-2023

The 12th Sea Islands Christmas Bird Count occurred on 3 January 2023. The weather during the day of the count was partly sunny with light winds and temperatures ranging from 54° F in the morning to 68°F in the afternoon. Heavy ocean fog blanketed the coastal areas and waterways most of the day with a brief clearing in early afternoon only to return around 4:00pm.

We had a great turnout for the count with a total of 68 participants. All sections within the count circle were covered. We had 18 participants in 8 parties on Kiawah Island, 12 participants in 6 parties on Seabrook Island, 10 participants in 6 parties on John’s Island, 7 participants in 3 parties on Wadmalaw Island, and 2 participants in 1 party on Deveaux Bank. In addition to field parties, we had good participation with feeder watchers too. There were 5 participants at 4 locations on Kiawah, 11 participants at 11 locations on Seabrook, 1 participant at 1 location on John’s Island, and 1 participant at 1 location on Wadmalaw Island.

The Sea Islands Christmas Bird Count team recorded 22,919 individual birds and 162 different species. Kiawah Island recorded 9,863 individuals of the 135 species. Seabrook Island (including the Freshfields territory) reported 4,286 individuals of 117 species. John’s Island documented 4,272 individuals of 114 species, Wadmalaw Island had 3,344 individuals of 105 species, and Deveaux Bank noted 1,154 individuals of 41 species.

Overall bird numbers were below average, however that number can vary wildly from year to year. The dense ocean fog reduced visibility on the beaches and fewer shorebirds, seabirds, and ocean birds were seen as a result. Species diversity has been consistent over the years ranging between 154-159 in most years. This year we finally broke 160 with a total 162 species-our highest ever! Since 2012, we have recorded 194 species.

Two new species were added to the count this year! A Grasshopper Sparrow was discovered by Nate Watkins in the fields behind Freshfields. An Ovenbird was found by Kristin Attinger around the Kiawah Island Banding Station. The Ovenbird was a bird that was banded during the fall and had been recaptured several times throughout November indicating that it might be overwintering out there. Kristin was able to relocate the bird and could even see the band on its leg!

Other Species Highlights: Waterfowl – 16 species! Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, American Woodcock, Roseate Spoonbill, Peregrine Falcon, Merlin, Vesper Sparrow, and Dark-eyed Junco. The Bar-tailed Godwit returned to Kiawah in September for it’s second straight winter!

Notable misses: Surf Scoter, Rusty Blackbird, Prairie Warbler, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Winter Wren.

I’d would like to thank all the participants and volunteers for continuing to make this event a success. Not only is the bird count fun and educational for participants, but it also contributes valuable scientific data to aid in bird conservation across the country. Looking ahead to next year, the count will fall within the window of January 2-4, 2024.

The details of species by location can be seen here.

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